Moving to Canada with a family is ‘the dream’ for most immigrants. It comes with a lot of planning, difficult choices, sacrifices and luck. On top of it, getting through immigration is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s equally vital that you pick the right location for your new life.
The cost of living in Canada varies across cities, as do other factors like climate, crime rates, child care and education facilities. It’s important to consider all these factors that will inevitably impact your lifestyle, opportunities and general well-being.
So, what is the best city in Canada for you and your family? Let’s look at the recent immigration patterns, the most popular destinations among immigrants and the driving force behind their popularity.
As of 2021, 9 out of 10 recent immigrants chose to live in one of Canada’s 41 census metropolitan areas (CMAs urban centres with over 100,000 residents) owing to factors such as the presence of similar communities and economic opportunities. Cities that received the most immigrants were Toronto (29.5%), Montreal (12.2%) and Vancouver (11.7%).
Despite the skewed numbers favouring urban centres, a growing number of recent immigrants are choosing to settle outside of Canada’s three largest cities. A report by Statistics Canada had the number of recent immigrants settling in Ottawa–Gatineau rising from 3.1% in 2016 to 4.4% in 2021, while it almost doubled in Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo, from 1.2% in 2016 to 2.1% in 2021.
Whatever your choice, it can be intimidating to commit to such a big decision so early on in the immigration process. This article will attempt to help you. We’ll go through some of the most popular Canadian cities, look at vital statistics like costs, education, daycare, safety etc. and help you come up with the perfect place for you and your family.
The city was the destination of choice in 2021, receiving 29.5% of all recent immigrants in Canada. The city is a microcosm of Canada’s multicultural society and has one of the most diverse populations in the world. According to the 2016 census, 52% of Toronto’s population belonged to a visible minority group. The leading minority groups were:
- South Asian 13%
- Chinese 11%
- Black 9%
- Filipino 6%
Cost of Living
According to Mercer’s cost of living index, Toronto had the highest cost of living among Canadian cities. It ranked 89th globally.
Toronto also had some of the highest rent in Canada, according to Rentals.ca. Occupants can expect to pay over $2,474 for a single-bedroom unit and $3,361 for double bedrooms.
Toronto’s public transit facilities are the most efficient way to get around the city. A monthly pass to access the subway, city buses and streetcar cost $156.
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Toronto had some of the highest childcare fees in Canada. The median fees in 2020 were:
- $1,866 for infant care
- $1,578 for toddler care and
- $1,250 for preschool
As a permanent citizen, you may enroll your child into one of Toronto’s public schools- free of cost. The city has both public and private schools.
The Toronto District School Board is the largest and most recognizable school board that serves over 246,000 students in Toronto.
The city is home to four public universities- OCAD University, Ryerson University, University of Toronto, York University, and one private- Northeastern University Toronto.
The 2021 Safe Cities Index ranked Toronto 2nd overall after Copenhagen. The index measures key factors such as Digital security, Health security, Infrastructure security, Personal security and Environmental security. Toronto has a low homicide rate in relation to its size and is one of the safest cities in Canada.
Montreal was ranked the 9th best city in the world by TimeOut. The highest-ranking Canadian city based on its neighbourhoods, restaurants, social scene and nightlife. The city is multicultural and has its fair share of visible minorities. According to the Census 2016, visible minorities were 34.2% of the population. The major population groups were
- Black 10.3%
- Arab 7.3%
- Latin American 4.1%
- South Asian and Chinese with 3.3% each.
Cost of Living
Montreal was ranked 125th in Mercer’s Cost of Living index 2022.
The city reported lower average rents, with a single bed going for $1,532 and a double bed for $1,969
The city has extensive public transit coverage accessible with an OPUS card. An adult monthly pass for travel within Montreal (Zone A) will set you back by $94.
You can find the fares for all zones on the STM’s website.
Montreal enjoys Quebec’s child-friendly policies. Childcare fees are subsidized and cost a mere $181 per month for infants, toddlers and preschoolers
The English Montreal School board is the largest English public school board in Montreal.
The city is also home to some of the most prestigious Canadian universities like McGill University, the University of Montreal and Concordia University.
Is Montreal the Safest city in Canada?
A joint report by Statistics Canada and the FBI ranked Montreal as the safest city in Canada. The city had a low homicide rate of 1.11 compared to the 4.72 average.
As one of Canada’s major cities, Vancouver attracts a lot of newcomers each year. According to Statistics Canada, visible minorities in Vancouver constitute over 48.9% of the total population. The major ethnicities were:
- South Asian 12%
- Chinese 19.6%
- Filipino 5.1%
Cost of Living
Vancouver was the second highest-ranking Canadian city in the Mercer Cost of Living Index, with a global rank of 108th.
It has some of the most inflated housing prices in Canada. The data from Rentals.ca shows the average of a single-bedroom unit at over $2,590 and a double-bedroom unit at $3,707.
Vancouver is a well-connected city with a transport network that includes the SkyTrain, SeaBus and buses. The fee for a monthly pass is $102.55 for a single zone, $137.10 for 2-zones, and $185.20 for 3-zones.
Child care in Vancouver is comparatively lower than in Toronto. The median fees, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report, were:
- $935 for preschool
- $1,165 for toddler care
- $1,165 for infant care
The Vancouver School Board is responsible for education in the Vancouver school district. It has an annual enrolment of over 48,500 students.
Some of the top Universities in the region include the University of British Columbia, the Washington State University, Vancouver and the University Canada West.
In 2014, 83% of the population was satisfied with their personal safety from crime. The police-reported crime rate for Vancouver in 2018 was 972 per 100,000 people. There was also a 22% decrease in police-reported crime between 2008 to 2018.
Gatineau is the fourth largest city in Quebec and an increasingly popular immigration hub. According to Statistics Canada, visible minorities constituted over 13.5% of Gatineau’s population in 2016. Immigration is one of the most significant contributors to the increasing minority population. The city saw immigration rates increase by 37% between 2006 and 2016.
Gatineau is seen as a reasonable destination compared to the more expensive cities like Toronto and Vancouver.
Cost of Living
According to Rentals.ca, Gatineau’s average rent for a single-bedroom unit was $1,561, and the cost of a double-bedroom unit was $1,840.
Like Montreal, Gatineau benefits from Quebec’s subsidized childcare policy. The childcare fees are $181 for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
The Western Quebec School Board provides English language education in Gatineau. It coordinates 13 elementary schools, 6 high schools, 6 kindergartens to grade 11 schools and 6 adult education and vocational training centres.
UQO (Universite du Quebec en Outaouais) is the premier University in Gatineau.
A 2014 report had 86% of Gatineau’s population satisfied with their safety. In 2018 the police-reported violent crime rate was 1,162 per 100,000 people. Further, police-reported crime fell by 34% from 2008 to 2018.
According to the 2016 census, the total visible minority population in the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo area was 99,735. The major ethnicities were South Asian 26,635, Chinese 15,940, Black 15,110, Latin American 9,100, and Southeast Asian 8,175.
The Waterloo region has welcomed over 28,000 new immigrants since the 2016 census. It is becoming a viable destination for newcomers who prefer to live away from the hustle of the big urban centres.
Cost of Living
The rent of a single-bedroom unit in Kitchener was $1,888, with double-bedroom units at $2,308.
The Grand River Transit operates light rail, express and conventional buses and door-to-door transit for passengers with disabilities in the region. A monthly pass with the GRT costs $90.00.
The median childcare costs in Kitchener were:
- $1051 for preschool
- $1,389 for infants
- $1,149 for toddlers
The Waterloo Region District School Board serves over 65,000 students in 122 schools across the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo region.
Some of the top Universities in the region include the University of Waterloo, Conestoga College and Wilfrid Laurier University.
In 2014, 92% of Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo’s population was satisfied with their personal safety. The Police-reported crime rate in 2018 was 1,181 for 100,000 people, and there was a 6% increase in police-reported crime between 2008 to 2018.
Calgary is the largest metro area in the Prairie provinces, known for being the centre of many corporate houses, its oil legacy and the Calgary stampede. The city is quickly growing in popularity among immigrants and recently welcomed over 25,000 international immigrants in just the second quarter of 2022.
According to the 2016 Census, Calgary had a visible minority population of over 1.3 million. The most common ethnicities among them were South Asian (122,900), Chinese (89,675), Filipino (70,660) and Black (54,190).
Cost of Living
Rentals.ca pegged the average rent of a single-bedroom unit at $1,629 and a double-bedroom unit at $1,895.
The median childcare fees in Calgary for 2020 were:
- $1,300 (monthly) for infants
- $1250 for toddlers
- $1,145 for preschoolers
The Calgary Board of education (CBE) is the public school board for Calgary.
The city is home to prominent institutions for higher education like the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).
Statistics Canada reported over 88% of Calgary’s population was satisfied with their personal safety in 2014. Police-reported violent crime rates in 2018 were well below national averages at 999 per 100,000 people.
The information covers the living conditions and what you can look forward to in each of these popular immigration destinations. Finding the Best city in Canada for you will depend on your job situation, preference and values. While it is prudent to research your new home, don’t let the stress overwhelm or stop you from enjoying the experience of resettling your family in Canada.